Radio talk-show host Mills Crenshaw has cut his ties to the Tax Limitation Coalition, the organization behind three tax initiatives that were soundly defeated last November.
His departure comes after Merrill Cook, who unsuccessfully ran for governor at the urging of coalition members, suggested that their dependency on Crenshaw to spread their message had cost them credibility.Crenshaw said he was leaving because some members of the coalition wanted to restrict what he discussed on the air to make sure the organization would be speaking "with one voice."
His daily call-in program on K-TALK radio is acknowledged as starting the tax protest movement responsible for the massive statewide petition drive that got the initiatives on the ballot.
Although he was not named to the coalition's board of directors until Saturday, Crenshaw had been a powerful force within the group and was its most visible spokesman.
"Under no circumstances can I allow any group or party to limit what I say on the air," he said. "I will continue to do what I've always done and that is to provide a voice for the people in Utah who don't have a voice."
He said he had nothing negative to say about Cook. But asked if would have continued working with the coalition had Cook not indicated that he may have hurt the group, Crenshaw answered only that he didn't know.
Cook said that the results of his own statewide telephone survey done on behalf of the coalition found the group was given an approval rating of less than 40 percent. That meant a change of leadership was in order.> Cook made his comments earlier this week, after he had succeeded in convincing the coalition's nine-member board of directors to endorse his plan for pursuing tax limitation over one favored by Crenshaw.
Cook had said that if the coalition did not support his efforts to save taxpayers between $80 million and $100 million by removing the sales tax on food, he would end his association with them.
His survey results backed his stand, showing Utahns prefer removing the sales tax on food to reducing property or income taxes when asked what kind of tax limitation they would support.
Crenshaw, on the other hand, has advocated stands on a wide variety of tax-related issues, ranging from support for an as-yet uncirculated tax initiative petition to opposition to bringing a Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City.
The other issue separating the pair is whether Utah needs a third political party. Cook, who ran for governor as an independent candidate, thinks there may be enough disenchanted Republicans and Democrats to form a new party.
Crenshaw, a lifelong Republican who tried to draft Cook into running at the GOP convention earlier this year, said he wants no part of the so-called independent party.> Some political observers close to the tax limitation movement have said that what they see as a rift between Cook and Crenshaw can only spell doom for any new initiative efforts.
However, legislators are mindful that even though the initiatives were defeated last November, taxpayers still expect some relief. Gov. Norm Bangerter has already proposed a $19 million tax cut.